Charleston, South Carolina bans plastic bags, straws, and foam

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CHARLESTON, S.C. — The city of Charleston, nearly surrounded by water, has banned plastic bags, straws and foam containers, saying the trash clogs waterways and is toxic to tourism as well as the ecosystem.

News outlets reported that Charleston City Council voted 11-2 Tuesday to end the use of the containers and plastic straws by 2020. Ten other coastal communities in South Carolina have approved similar bans.

Surveys by the city this year and last year showed about 99 per cent of the businesses and residents questioned support the ban.

Most of those opposing the ban at the meeting represented plastic manufacturer No Volex of Hartsville.

State lawmakers are expected to consider a bill in January to prevent local governments from banning plastics and foam. A similar effort failed this year.

The Associated Press

Full Report on Drainage Projects From Mayor John J. Tecklenburg

It’s been another busy week here in the City, particularly in the area of flooding and drainage. With that in mind, I thought would be a good time for me to give you a full report on drainage projects recently completed or in the works:

Forest Acres Drainage Improvements – Phase 1 and 2:This project serves a number of West Ashley neighborhoods including Washington Park and North Forest Acres.? Phase 1 was completed earlier this year to the tune of $11.4 million. With a few more property/easement acquisitions, we’ll be starting Phase 2 which will continue the installation of new pipes and open channels upstream of the former pump station. This project recently won the South Carolina ?American Public Works Association 2018 Public Works Project of the Year Award.

Church Creek Drainage Basin – Bob Horner of Weston and Sampson has completed a thorough analysis of the basin.? City Council passed new development/stormwater requirements last week to increase water retention and improve flow in the basin.? In September we will also bring to Council a contract to proceed with a project that will divert stormwater flowing into the Hickory Farms neighborhood.? Our second project will be tidal protection for the basin and we have allocated an initial $2.5 million for these projects. We have also improved the maintenance in this critical basin by increasing its frequency.

?Dupont/Wappoo Watershed Master Plan – A joint project of the City and County of Charleston involves a complete inventory of all drainage features (all conveyance pipes, culverts, ditches, etc.) ?in the basin which includes Citadel Mall, Hazelwood, and the neighborhoods adjacent to Dupont, Wappoo, and Orleans Rds. The inventory is nearly complete and we’ve identified nearly double the number of features than was anticipated (over 3,000).? Maintenance and cleaning has occurred along the way but with the completion of the inventory, a model will be employed to enable effective projects to enhance water flow out of the basin.

Westwood neighborhood – We’ve finally received the SCDOT encroachment permit that was needed to finish this project that will provide relief to St. Theresa Dr and the Westwood neighborhood. The project is advertised for bids. We anticipate the bid opening on 9/13/18.? Construction may begin in November 2018.

?Ashley Hall Manor neighborhood – City Council just approved a drainage improvement project for this neighborhood that includes upsizing drainage pipe and ditches and a new outfall. The work should alleviate the frequent flooding of the Salisbury/Falmouth area in the neighborhood. This should be completed in the next 3-4 months.

Spring/Fishburne Sts. Drainage basin, which serves the Septima P. Clark Crosstown – This a complex project including more than 8,000 linear feet of underground tunnels (120 to 150 feet below surface) that will all be connected to an outfall and pump station between the Ashley River bridges.? We will be opening bids for phase 4 of this 5 phase project on September 11th. Phase 4 is the wetwell and outfall, estimated to be around $39 million, and must be completed before phase 5, the pump station, can be started as Phase 5 will be situated directly on top of the wetwell. This project is a poster-child example of the complexity, expense, and time requirements to complete a major drainage project but it will serve more than 500 acres of the western peninsula and will keep the Septima Clark crosstown open to traffic during most rain events when complete.? I know it’s a long time coming but will be worth it. Phase 4 will take about 3 years to complete and then another 2 more for phase 5. The tunnels are about halfway complete. Funding for Phase 4 is coming from the State Infrastructure Bank and funding for Phase 5 is from the King Street Gateway TIF.

The proposed solution for the Calhoun West project is a similar tunnel/pump system that will serve the western peninsula from about Cannon St. to the Battery.? It is currently being engineered and we are securing real estate for the drop shafts needed for the tunnel system. It’s critical to know the start and end points in order to complete the engineering, which will allow more exact estimates for the funding required.? Much more to come on this one.

Low Battery Sea Wall – The iconic low battery wall along Murray Blvd was built about 100 years ago and is failing and needs replacement.? This will give us the opportunity to raise the wall and add protection against king tides, extreme storms, and sea level rise. We have completed a re-engineering to raise it further and are proceeding with permitting and will put the project out for bid late this year.? We’ve decided due to the poor condition of existing wall, to start at Tradd St. at the Coast Guard Station and work our way back to White Point Gardens. We’ve been setting aside Accommodations and Hospitality funds for this project as it qualifies as tourism-related infrastructure; we are also researching grant opportunities as an additional funding source.? Start construction in early 2019.

King and Huger St. – This corner is notorious for flooding after a gentle rain, JMT Engineers has been engaged to study the basin and ?recommend a design for the project. The study will be complete the week of 8/27. Depending on the complexity of the recommended solution, we should have design plans in about 60 days.? We plan to use Tax Increment Finance funding for a portion of this project.

Market St. Streetscape and drainage connection – There’s already a new tunnel underneath Market St which connects to our Concord St pump station (which can pump about 7.2 million gallons of water out of the City in an hour).? To date 3 drop shafts along Market St are connected to the tunnel and are already making a difference in the market area and on Market St. In the near future, the entire drainage system along Market St from Meeting St to Concord St will be greatly improved and connected to the tunnel. ??As we improve the drainage on Market St, we will re-do the sidewalks and “streetscape.” Admittedly we’ve been delayed by provisions for the undergrounding of the electric lines and other utility considerations, but we’ve finally got the easements needed in place and SCE&G is completing their design for the undergrounding.? This project should also be able to proceed to construction in 2019 and will make a huge difference to drainage in the area.

Check valve installation – Check valves are installed just up from an outfall to prevent tidal water or storm surge from entering into our stormwater systems.? With the increased frequency of higher “king tides”, these check valves go a long way to avoid “nuisance flooding” and offer some protection from storm surge. In the last two years, the City has spent approximately $755,000 to install these valves ( or replace old ones) at Beaufain St., Ackerman Dr., George Griffith Dr., Morrison Dr., East Bay St., ?Bennett and Gadsden, two on Ashley Avenue (at Cannon Park and Tradd), Rutledge, Water and Limehouse (at the Battery), Montclair, Rebellion Road, and Poulnot Lane, These valves are already making a difference.

Central Park/Wambaw Watershed on James Island – In a similar fashion to the Dupont/Wappoo project listed above, the City and County are also partnering to inventory all the drainage features of this basin, create a model, and recommend any maintenance and infrastructure improvements.? We are using the same contractor and as soon as the DuWap inventory is complete, they’ll begin on this one, fall of this year.

Signal Point Rd area improvements – County is taking the lead on this study and recommended improvements,

James Island Drainage Master Plan – In addition, the County is taking the lead on an overall plan to delineate all the watersheds on James Island, and then to evaluate and prioritize them.? In the meantime, as presented at a recent James Island Intergovernmental meeting, the City, County, Town of James Island, James Island PSD, and the SCDOT are working cooperatively on maintenance.

John’s Island Drainage Master Plan – In a similar vein, the City is taking the lead on this one and contracted with Davis and Floyd to perform a “rain on grid model” for the island. Specific projects will follow specifically for the Barberry Woods neighborhood.

That summarizes most major projects underway (more than $200,000 each).? We know there are more to come. But also wanted to advise, that there are numerous smaller projects underway or recently completed (less than $200,000), that include:

Heathwood Dr/Elton Ct., W. Robinhood and Prince St., Lord Calvert Dr., George Griffith canal, Sunnyside, Morrison Dr, and others.

I hope this information is helpful and ask that if our citizens have anything particular to report, to please call our citizens service desk at 843-724-7311 or email us at My next report will be on the numerous policy issues we are addressing with respect to drainage requirements and development.

John J. Tecklenburg

Mayor, City of Charleston

Straight Talk from Mayor John Tecklenburg – A Message from Our Mayor

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Many of you may have received a letter today from the Mayor.? For those that have not seen, here is the transcript from the Mayor where he discusses flooding, affordable living, traffic, government and community.

Letter from the Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina

Good morning.

I hope you’re having a good week, but I know that last week’s excessive flooding has caused major inconveniences for too many of our citizens, and real damage to others. I can assure you that flooding and the impact of higher tides, which not only put immediate pressure on storm water systems but also pose a more long-term challenge, are a top priority for me — one that I think about when I wake up in the morning and go to bed at night. ?More on this later.

As I hope you know, Sandy and I have in the past two and a half years attended every function, neighborhood association meeting and public event humanly possible, and we will continue on this track. ?(Some of our events in just last week included reading to children at our city’s first continuing Freedom School, attending the 200th anniversary service at Mother Emanuel AME and working with our friends and colleagues at the 2018 SC Municipal Association Conference.) Fortunately this has given me the opportunity to listen and talk with many citizens, but I know given the size of our City, I have not done as well as I would like communicating and sharing with more of you what we know about our special city’s challenges and opportunities.

Accordingly, this is the first of my weekly updates, so you will better understand what your Mayor does, what we accomplish and some of the outstanding challenges and opportunities we are addressing every day.

Extreme Rain Bomb and Flash Flooding in Charleston

I regret that many in the City were affected by the deluge of rain that fell upon us on Friday, and I feel your frustration and pain.? I happened to be attending the annual SC Municipal Association Meeting (ironically, working on additional funding sources for drainage projects) and fortunately when we returned to town early Friday evening the waters had mostly receded.? The worst impact was the closure of the Septima Clark Parkway, or Crosstown.? The City is currently in Phase 3 of a 5-phase project that is expensive (approximately $ 160,000,000) under a multi year plan with the projected completion to be in 2022.? The immense project includes a massive pump station between the Ashley River Bridges that will essentially evacuate storm water from a nearly 600-acre section of our City, including all of the Septima Clark Parkway.? According to the best engineers money can buy, we are told that upon completion, the kind of event that occurred Friday will be a thing of the past.? I know this has been taking longer than any of us would like and it is not currently mitigating the effects of very heavy rains, but the construction necessitates a sequence of projects, all of which have timelines.? The good news is that the funding is in place and it’s under construction, so real relief is in sight.

In the meantime, as we have experienced more and more extreme weather events, I ask that our citizens keep in mind and work with the city and your neighbors to:

  • Pay close attention to the weather and tidal reports.? If you are in a low-lying area, please take those steps to protect yourself and your property.? Be proactive.
  • While our capable staff inspects the storm water systems on a regular basis it would be helpful if you could help check nearby drains, pipes, and ditches and let us know if they are not free of debris in front of your homes or business.? If unable to clear debris, please contact the City Customer Service Hotline at 724-7311 to request service.? You may also “adopt-a-drain” on the City’s website by clicking here. This is a new City initiative to keep our eyes on drains and keep storm water flowing.
  • Please do not attempt to drive on any street that appears to be impassable.

Progress with Traffic and Transportation:

I’m proud that my colleagues on City Council and I gave first reading to our new Citywide Transportation Plan, with final passage expected next month.? Much thanks to our Traffic and Transportation Director, Keith Benjamin, for his incredible efforts in bringing this plan forward.? And thanks, too, to the literally hundreds of citizens who participated along the way.? You may view the plan by clicking here.

The plan identified transportation policies such as “Complete Streets” that are to be updated, as well as 13 specific projects for transportation and public safety improvement.? The most important aspect of the plan is that it dovetails with the regional Council of Governments transportation plan, meaning that our projects are prioritized for future funding. In the meantime, as we await final Council approval in August, we are already working on a number of the specific projects included in the recommendations.

Affordable Housing is a Priority

Sandy and I were honored to be a part of the dedication of a new affordable housing community built on James Island, which is an important component of the diversity of our city. The City partnered with Sea Island Habitat for Humanity, which recently celebrated its 40th birthday and is the 3rd oldest chapter of Habitat.? The lovely 3 bedroom, 2 bath homes have an affordable price tag of $69,000/unit with financing based on ability to pay.? It was eye-opening to discover that the land cost and infrastructure for each lot was $72,000/unit, more than the cost of the home itself. ?This is because of the heavy lifting by Habitat’s amazing and tirelessly committed volunteers.? I will be bringing a set of proposals to City Council soon to reduce costs (impact fees, inspections, permitting, etc.) wherever possible to further increase the stock of affordable housing in our City.

What’s Going on In City Government?

I share below information from the City of Charleston on upcoming events, activities, and services.? I hope this helps you better understand how much is happening throughout the city and the countless numbers of hours volunteers, non-profit organizations, businesses and city staff are investing in making our city the best we can be.

Committee on Community Development
July 26, 4:30 PM @ City Hall, Council Chamber

Board of Architectural Review – Small
July 26, 4:30 PM?-?9:30 PM @ Gaillard Center Public Meeting Room

Ad Hoc Budget Committee
July 27, 3:30 PM @ 116 Meeting Street, First Floor Conference Room

Commission on Disability Issues
July 27, 4:00 PM @ 2 George Street: Public Meeting Room, First Floor

Maybank Highway Public Zoning Workshop
July 30 and 31, 6:00 PM?-?8:00 PM
MORE: Charleston County and City of Charleston Planning Departments will co-host two public workshops on the proposed Maybank Highway and Main Road Zoning District., The workshops will provide staff with public input regarding land use, zoning, and development standards along Maybank Highway and Main Road. The purpose of this collaborative planning effort is to create consistent land use, zoning, and development requirements between the County and City, and for the County to create a new Main Road Overlay Zoning District. Attendees will be encouraged to provide feedback through a community survey, comment cards, and a public comment session. These are the first public workshops regarding the Maybank Highway and Main Road corridors, which will take place over the next year.

I hope this newsletter has been helpful. Thanks for taking the time to review, and please share any comments and suggestions.

I remain at your service and cherish every moment being the Mayor of my hometown.

John Tecklenburg

Mayor, City of Charleston

Waterfront Park Photo Courtesy of Mark A. Leon

Mayor Pictures Courtesy of Charleston County Government

5 Ways the Charleston Government can make the Lowcountry liveable again

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Yesterday’s flooding was not a wake up call for most that live in the Lowcountry, but the harsh reality of life on the coast in the heart of a targeted hurricane area.? Not only did the flooding cripple drivers throughout the area, but it has created concern on the health of our waters and the unsafe bacteria that can cause harm to children and adults enjoying basic recreational activities.

Mayor Tecklenburg and his staff made promises of “Better Liveability” in the Lowcountry if elected.? That is a subjective term and has room for multiple interpretations.? At its core, it is defined as:

1. suitable for living in; habitable; comfortable: to make a house livable.
2. worth living; endurable: something to make life more livable.
3. able to be lived with; companionable (often used in combination with with): charming but not altogether livable-with.
Many have voiced concerns that with the flooding issue still a critical area of worry, bridge structural and design issues in play, traffic continuing to spiral out of control, safety issues in the waters and cost of living in excess of the national inflationary rate due to a priority on tourism, we have not had any of our promises met.
We would like to take a stab and make a few proposals on how to provide the necessary funding to turn the tide and try and make this a place worth living for our residents that call Charleston home.


5 Ways to Raise Budgetary Funding to Provide Solutions to our Growing Liveability Struggles
  • Stronger zoning restrictions and higher zoning fees – Hotels, condominiums, housing, apartments and massive retail complexes are the new norm in Charleston.? When you leave the downtown Charleston area in any direction, cranes are a part of the scenery in all directions.? Construction seems to be running amuck with no signs of slowing down.? One Solution:? Add more zoning restrictions and higher zoning fees to raise more revenue and curtail the speed of expansion.
  • More in-depth land surveys on the long term effects of construction on specific plots of land – There is a growing concern of development in areas that have long term concerns around structural safety, flooding and destruction of wildlife homes and preserves.? With development going up on marshes and traditional flooding areas, there seems to be a lack of ethics and an abundance of greed.? We need to put safety and long term sustainability first.? When will this start to happen?
  • Non-resident tolls for Lowcountry beach entrance – Charge a tool for the entrance to Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms, Folly Beach and Edisto Beach for non-residents.? If tourism is our bread and butter, we should gain additional revenue to fund projects that will help our residents and justify the 5 million plus tourists we have to see flood our area each year.
  • Higher property tax for a period of 3 – 5 years for all new construction – For all new commercial and hospitality construction, we should levy additional property tax for the first 3 to 5 years and then stagger back to the current rates.? Charleston is a commodity and there is a lot of profit to be had here.? We need to acknowledge that.
  • Increase luxury tax on high end items – Some argue Charleston has two classes, rich and poor with a very limited, almost non-visible middle class.? With some hotels charging up to $600 plus a night and high end retail throughout the city, we have an opportunity to levy increased luxury taxes to help fund our local projects.

There are our proposals.? We welcome all comments as well.

23 James Island Roads Slated to Be Repaved

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The Town of James Island just received notification from County Councilman Joe Qualey about the following James Island streets slated for repaving under the County’s 1/2 sales tax program.

  • Arthur Drive
  • Brockman Circle
  • Brockman Drive
  • Burnett Drive
  • Castle Pinckney Drive
  • Darwin Street
  • Fred Street
  • Harbor Place Drive
  • Harrill Court
  • Joey Circle
  • Kushiwah Creek Court
  • Kushiwah Creek Drive
  • Maple Crest Drive
  • Martello Drive
  • Old Plantation Road
  • Regatta Road
  • Sheld Circle
  • Stebbins Court
  • Stebbins Street
  • Weir Street
  • West Capers Road
  • Willingham Court

Public Input Needed on Growth in Charleston County – Here is your chance to affect positive change (7 Meeting Opportunities)

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Public workshops will be held to gather input for the county’s Comprehensive Plan Ten-Year Update starting March 19

Charleston County Government will hold seven public workshops in different areas of the county in the coming weeks to gather input on proposed amendments to the Charleston County Comprehensive Plan as part of the ten-year update of the plan.

The Charleston County Planning Commission reviewed all ten elements of the plan throughout 2017, and now is in the process of presenting proposed amendments to the public. The public will have an opportunity to give input on the proposed amendments to the plan during the upcoming workshops. Each workshop will have a drop-in format where attendees can view the proposed amendments at their own pace and submit comments and suggestions before leaving the workshops. Citizens can also view and submit comments and suggestions on the county’s website at

“Public participation in the comprehensive planning process is critical to ensure county growth is consistent with the community’s vision. Public input also helps guide the provision of county services and impacts future policy decisions that improve the general welfare of all citizens and visitors to Charleston County,” said Planning Director Joel Evans.

Details on the seven public workshops:

Monday, March 19, 2018, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Edisto Island Presbyterian Church
2164 Hwy 174, Edisto Island

Tuesday, March 20, 2018, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Johns Island High School
1518 Main Road, Johns Island

Wednesday, March 21, 2018, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Wando High School
1000 Warrior Way, Mount Pleasant

Monday, March 26, 2018, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Ladson Elementary School
3321 Ladson Road, Ladson

Tuesday, March 27, 2018, 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Lonnie Hamilton, III Public Services Building
4045 Bridge View Drive, North Charleston

Wednesday, March 28, 2018, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
West Ashley High School
4060 W. Wildcat Blvd., West Ashley

Thursday, March 29, 2018, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
James Island Elementary School
1872 Grimball Road, James Island

What is the Charleston County Comprehensive Plan?
? Charleston County’s Comprehensive Plan is an expression of the county’s intent for where and how future growth and development should occur. The plan also identifies parts of the county that may or may not be appropriate for certain types of growth, given the Lowcountry’s unique character and natural conditions.Why does the Comprehensive Plan need to be reviewed?
? Title 6, Chapter 29 of the South Carolina Code of Laws requires that the Comprehensive Plan be reviewed at least once every five years and updated at least once every ten years. County Council adopted the original Comprehensive Plan on April 20, 1999. The first five-year review was adopted on November 18, 2003; the first ten-year update was adopted on November 18, 2008; and the second five-year review was completed in October
2013 and implemented in January 2015.

Who is involved in the update process?
? The public;
? Stakeholders;
? Charleston County Council;
? Charleston County Planning Commission; and
? Charleston County Zoning & Planning Department staff

How does the process work?
? The Charleston County Planning Commission reviewed the Comprehensive Plan elements during their regular meetings, beginning in April 2017 and culminating in January 2018.
? Public workshops will be held in seven locations to gather public input on the proposed amendments to the
Comprehensive Plan to implement the Planning Commission review.
? The Planning Commission will review the input gathered from the public workshops and make a recommendation to Council regarding the Comprehensive Plan amendments to implement the Ten-Year Update. All Planning
Commission meetings are open to the public.
? County Council will hold at least one public hearing regarding the proposed amendments to the Comprehensive
Plan and adopt the amendments after three readings. All County Council meetings are open to the public.

Visit the Charleston County website at for a direct link to public meeting notices, agendas, presentations, and up-to-date news and information about the Charleston County Comprehensive Plan Ten-Year Update.

For information on Charleston County Government news and services, the public can:
? Visit our website:
? Follow us on Twitter:
? Like us on Facebook (main County site):
? See us on You Tube:
? Watch County Council meetings online

Is Charleston County Spending Its Budget Properly?

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By Mark A. Leon

The approved fiscal 2017 Charleston County Budget Narrative is 483 pages.? Not an easy mass of context, graphs and images for the average person to swallow.? Perhaps that is why the allocation of spending has been overlooked and areas that need critical assistance are being grossly underfunded.? As citizens, we have an obligation to be informed, thus we are able to make the proper decisions and have the right conversations with our elected officials to ensure our children’s education, healthcare, infrastructure and common well being are funded properly.

Summary of General Funding

Expenditures and other uses for all operating funds total nearly $480.0 million for FY 2017, a $4.0 million increase from the previous year.

The largest increases in the General Fund represent an additional $3.4 million in EMS and $1.7 million in the Sheriff’s Office due to the annualization of costs related to the public safety expansion in FY 2016. The second significant increase in the General Fund is an additional $3.3 million in Facilities Management which represents the transfer of annual recurring maintenance related to roofing, heating/cooling, and paving from the Capital Projects Fund (not included in the annual operating budget) to the General Fund. The third most significant increase is in the Special Revenue Fund. The newly enhanced Public Works: Stormwater Drainage program resulted in a $2.1 million increase.
Here are a few simple understandings about where our tax money is spend and where it is generated.
  • The total spent on Economic Development, Education and Health / Welfare is 26.6 Million.? All three combined is 6.9 Million less than Culture and Recreation spending (26% more)
  • General Government funding is higher than economic development, education, culture/recreation, health/welfare, public works and judicial combined 131.6M vs. 123.3M
  • 0.033% of the 2017 fiscal budget is spent on Health/Welfare in the county that has the largest health system in the state.
  • 393.5 Million or 82% of our intake funding comes from property taxes, sales tax and fees.
  • Only 15.8 million more is taken in by sales tax than property tax (146M vs 130.2M),? Yet, the average home price in Charleston County has gone from 150K to 252K (2000 – 2017).
  • US News and Worlds Report ranks South Carolina last (50 out of 50) in education, yet Charleston County sets 6.6M (0.014%) on Educational spending.

This generates a level of concern that needs addressing.? Charleston County is home to the largest healthcare system in the state of South Carolina and currently the state ranks in the lower quarter of Opioid related hospitalizations and fatalities, yet we utilize 0.033% of our annual budget (16.1M) toward health and welfare.? With an education system that is overcrowded and the quality of education so poor, why only 0.014% (6.6M) being allotted for educational spending?? In the state of South Carolina, only 40% of residents have a completed four year degree yet we are bringing in quality jobs from Boeing, Volvo, BMW, BenefitFocus and more.

With the rise of crime in the Lowcountry, one could account for 101.3M or 21% going toward public safety, yet this accounts for almost double the spending on set aside for public works.? When we are desperately in need of infrastructure and road improvements while hotels are going up as fast as a child with a box of Legos, does that make sense?

Economic development is 3.9M (0.008%) which is not enough to fund job training programs, career counseling and quality job creation in technology, design, management and business.

We invite you to review the narrative and begin to have those important discussions.? Given that Charleston has recently been deemed one of the most fiscally sound cities in the United States, it seems priorities are still a little mixed up on how our money is spent and it is time to let yourself be heard.

Appendix – Graphs / Charts

Where is the funding coming from?

Local Charleston Resident and Government Officials Express Concern About the Future of Charleston after Recent Irma Attack

During the most recent regular meeting of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association following the passing of Tropical Storm Irma, members agreed to put off discussion of normal business matters in order to hear three speakers representing the city: Mark Wibert, a newly appointed “resilience” officer (a half-time position), Mark Matzler from the Public Works Department and Mike Seekings, city councilman representing South of Broad and Harleston Village.

  • Mark Wibert spoke about Charleston’s flooding history, recent trends in rising sea levels and sunny day flooding, and big events natural disaster events including hurricanes.
  • Mark Metzler spoke about improvements this year in debris cleanup after the storm and efforts to do better storm drain maintenance.
  • Mike Seekings recounted his experience at the Battery at high tide as waves over washed the road. He promised to push ahead on mitigation, but as of today, it is not clear how.

The candid discussion of these three gentleman, affects of the last storm on Charleston and personal sentiment have many local residents worried about the future.

Gadsden Street – September 11 (Photo Credit: Susan Lyons)

Local Charleston resident Susan Lyons, expressed her observations and personal thoughts on the recent neighborhood association meeting, stating:

“While Hurricane Irma inflicted catastrophic damage on islands and cities south of us, many on Charleston’s Peninsula south of the Crosstown once again found our houses, yards and crawlspaces flooded, needing new duct systems, worried about too many flood insurance claims and too much financial drain, and frustrated by the city’s response.

The Post and Courier’s editorial yesterday called for bold action now, business leaders are encouraging residents to call their state and federal representatives to ask for help, and neighborhood associations have begun to focus on the problem. Communication from the mayor and city council has been thin, but this week, Councilman Mike Seekings, who represents South of Broad and Harleston Village, reported that, despite his wife’s pleas, he went to the Low Battery two hours before and through the peak of high tide at about 12:30 p.m., on Monday, September 11, and captured in pictures what he called the “tsunami” of water — some of it from as far away as the Azores — as it crashed over the sea wall. At one point, he told Charlestowne Neighborhood Association members this week, the harbor water and the Battery “were at the same elevation.” No one has been willing to say, categorically, that the whole Battery was not in jeopardy of giving way one day.? Scary.

Mark Wilbert, the city’s half-time “resilience” officer, has reported that rising seas and intensified rain created high tide events on our streets 38 times in 2015, 50 times last year, and could number as many as 180 by 2040. That does not include severe storms.

We blame climate change, polar ice-melts, over-development, political myopia, bureaucratic buck-passing, and lack of money. But unless the Charleston community unites behind a dynamic and costly flood prevention and mitigation program now, homeowners and businesses will continue losing ground, literally, residents considering leaving town will sell and go, and our city will decline.

Progress has been made on some fronts. Improved check valves were said to have worked well during Irma until the Battery was breached by the surge at high tide, Mark Metzler of the city’s Public Works Department reported that cleanup of debris, storm drain maintenance, and damage surveys of individual homes all have been more efficient this year. And while work continues on the myriad of projects set forth in a 1984 plan, they are not even half finished. A new consultant is said to be coming to City Hall in January to review the entire city’s “remedies vs. threats,” a representative of the Dutch Embassy may pay a visit to Charleston to share that country’s wisdom, and some homeowners are looking into the feasibility of raising their houses.

But the big work — a new sea wall that extends to the Coast Guard Station, and raising Lockwood Drive to protect the Peninsula’s lower west side — appear to be a long way off.
City officials displayed a map of the Charleston Peninsula early on before its west side had been developed on fill, and before many of its creeks and river fingers were paved over. Striking was the picture of where flooding occurred here — water rising in most of those watery same places. “Mother Nature wants her land back,” Councilman Seekings told the CNA audience this week.

Charleston will need all the help she can get to keep her at bay. All of us will need to pitch in.”


Gadsden Street – September 13 (Photo Credit: Susan Lyons)

Charleston Mayor proposes African-American monument

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For Immediate Release:? CHARLESTON, S.C. — The mayor of a major South Carolina city is calling for an African-American monument and new plaques to be erected there.

Local news outlets report Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg asked the city’s Historic Commission on Wednesday to consider adding a number of revised historical markers as well as some new monuments across the city in order to create a more balanced narrative of Confederate-related history. Among Tecklenburg’s ideas is a proposal to erect a monument to African-American Union soldiers at one of the city parks.

Commission Chairman Harlan Greene says the group has accepted Tecklenburg’s challenge to “tell a better message” with the city’s markers and memorials.

The commission decided to defer discussion. Tecklenburg said after the meeting that he felt the group was “receptive” to his ideas.

Charleston, SC Lacks A Soul and Backbone

By Mark A. Leon

The headlines read, “the end of an era” and “progress is upon us”.? We have heard those words time and time again over the last two years as more and more legacy businesses have fallen.

This week we learned that on the day a major developer signed the paper work to take over the property of the James Island Carmike Cinema, the theater was closed and all staff were immediately out of jobs.? Several companies invested $100M into two apartment developments on Upper King and Spring continuing the expansion North.? Nearly $50M has been invested into seven new area storage facilities.? The cost of living in Charleston, SC is 31% ahead of the national average and 51% above of the remainder of South Carolina.? Is this growth and pace healthy?

Yet with the hundreds of millions of dollars put into the “progress” of the city, the average Charleston driver is spending $1850 annually on car repairs due to bad roads.

At the end of the day, the definition of progress in Charleston is simple:? Bring in tourists and revenue and put your own citizens in the corner to suffer.? That is where the lack of passion and soul comes to the forefront.? We have elected officials that we have chosen to represent us and council meetings that hear requests for zoning modifications and approvals monthly.? How many step up and force the hand of our elected officials and say “Stop, we have had enough”?? Power in numbers is what drives change and we just aren’t there.? We have a responsibility to let our voice be heard and in numbers.? Off the cuff comments and unsubstantiated gripes on social while we hide behind our smartphones and desktops will not ignite change.

I recently spent time in Southern California and Lower Manhattan and experienced two vibrant cultures showered in individual expressiveness, warmth and an edgy, yet relaxed sense of comfort.? Two places basking in the arts and culture, fired by the loins to take-action and fulfilled with a sense of community support.? Both these areas have tourism boards and self-proclaimed proponents of the amenities they offer, yet the one element they lack is the in your face bragging that has saturated the Charleston culture.

In a recent Travel & Leisure piece naming the top 100 restaurants in the world, not one Charleston restaurant made the list, yet we prominently brag of our dominance in the foodie world.? It is evident based on the percentage of visual posts on social dedicated exclusively to food.? Chefs are celebrities and the prominent wealthy will drop hundreds to say they experienced what is claimed to be the best.

While at the same time, an entire tent city of homeless is wiped out.

Also, when we make it on some digital or print publication’s top list, regardless of whether we are 15, 33, 45 or 80, it is a moment of celebration.? I’ve often questioned, at what level on a list is a city worthy of celebration.? Then again, do we need to celebrate or can we take comfort in knowing we earned something special?

We claim to have the best Southern chefs in the country; the most promising BBQ scene around and the most creative menus this side of the Mason Dixon.? Yet we lack diversity in food in every sense of the word on the peninsula.? How many Vietnamese, Malaysian, Korean, Dutch, Brazilian or Peruvian themed restaurants are on the peninsula?

Let us move away from the food topic for just a moment, away from the numerous pop up companies promoting tee-shirts, hats, towels, blankets, Instagram accounts and anything that regards Charleston as “Heaven” and focus on the soul of this city.

Without the benefit of chatter trends, it is clear many have openly vocalized their distaste for increased traffic issues (with the supporters sticking to “It’s far worse in New York, San Francisco and Chicago), population growth and cost of living tsunami that has hit Charleston in the last five years.? Yet, how many attend the zoning ordinance meetings that vote on approval of all this new construction?

We want Charleston to remain quiet, historic and full of its “Southern Charm”, yet we don’t use the voice we are given when we elect our city and county officials.

For those of you that have ever been involved in a protest, it has value.? It is a collective public voice promoting change.? Its core values date back thousands of years and it has served to ignite some of the most important movements in history.? It fuels the engine of process.? How many protests have you witnessed in your lifetime in Charleston?? For those that are going to say the Unity Walk for Mother Emanuel or the Woman’s March, those were events of solidarity and unity, not protests for change.? The Charleston Five was a protest and that set a fire that carried all the way to Columbia.

I would like to shift gears once more and look at priorities in Charleston.? These are the top priorities as I see them from monitoring trends online:

  • Restaurants
  • Beaches
  • Windows and architecture
  • Festivals
  • Drinking (We do have the #1 seller of PBR in the US and as many breweries as shopping centers)
  • Dogs
  • Shopping

I welcome the debate, but I don’t see the following as high priorities

  • Education
  • Cost of Living
  • Roads and infrastructure concerns
  • Career opportunities and growth
  • Public safety
  • Flooding

In fact, we turn our heads to negative as if it doesn’t exist.

At the blink of an eye, we are missing a community that is ready to explode with a creative renaissance and a thirst to promote change in conservationism, the arts, homeless support, coastal restoration and technology.? From the thriving theatre district that struggles to fill shows outside the spotlight of Spoleto to the incredible work being done for sea turtle rehabilitation and dog rescue to a poetry scene that has elements of Greenwich Village in the 1960’s when singers, poets and activists united.

Charleston wants to show the world that we care about our planet and all its creatures, have a creative force that could compete worldwide and want to show a community committed to sharing, equal rights and support.

We are desperately missing the boat and we aren’t even interested in trying.

The numbers do not lie.? Charleston is one of the fastest growing cities in the South and becoming one of the fastest growing in the United States.? The cost of housing is 31 basis points above the United States average index and 51 basis points above the South Carolina average.? Classrooms are overcrowded, tourism has taken over as the top priority, yet we mask marketing media around “buy local”.? The historic societies fought behind the scenes for over 200 years to keep the peninsula’s rich history and esthetics intact and after one year, we have a mayor that has destroyed this blueprint.

It is fine, because we are Charleston nice.? We will continue to say good day to you, nod our heads and smile because that is who we are.? Southern charm is alive and well in the South.? I just wish we would look in the mirror and try to find the heart and soul to fight for a city we used to love.